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This Thursday, Oct 24, Marin Alsop Launches Tenure as First Female Chief Conductor of Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra

Marin Alsop makes history once again this Thursday, October 24. Already the first woman to serve as the head of a major orchestra in the United States, South America and Britain, now she adds Austria to the list, when she inaugurates her tenure as the first female Chief Conductor of the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. To open the ensemble’s landmark 50th anniversary season, she leads a program pairing works by Hindemith with Rapture by her late friend and colleague, Christopher Rouse, and the world premiere of a new commission from award-winning Russian-American composer Lera Auerbach. Held at the Vienna Konzerthaus, where it will be recorded for a subsequent radio broadcast, the Opening Night kicks off the two weeks of concerts, masterclasses, talks and workshops that launch Alsop’s first Vienna RSO season. Showcasing the work of female composers and conductors with related educational initiatives, the orchestra’s 2019-20 programming reflects its new Chief Conductor’s pioneering role in the campaign for gender equality in music.

Looking ahead to her new tenure, Alsop says:

“Vienna is a musical city like no other and was central to the careers of two of my idols – Mahler and Bernstein, both of whose compositions I have conducted with this orchestra and look forward to performing again this season. I am excited to get started with the Vienna RSO during its anniversary season and to work with these great musicians on a wide range of concert repertoire, including world premieres, as well as on recordings, tours and educational initiatives. It’s particularly meaningful to me to have the chance to work with emergent female conductors and conduct music by three terrific female composers.”

About Pulitzer- and Grammy-winning composer Rouse and his untimely death late last month, the conductor adds:

“Chris Rouse’s passing is an enormous loss, both as an artist and a dear friend. I was able to spend time with him in his last weeks, and he was irreverent and profound, as always! I’ve been in love with his music since the 1990s; it grabs our hearts at the most fundamental, human core.”

One of the foremost conductors of our time, Alsop is as celebrated for her cogent readings of core masterworks as for her tireless advocacy of new composition. Currently serving as Music Director of both the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, and a regular and highly sought-after guest on the world’s most prominent podiums, she looks forward to collaborating with Carnegie Hall next year on “All Together: A Global Ode to Joy,” a worldwide celebration of Beethoven at 250 that sees her leading the composer’s Ninth Symphony with ten orchestras on six continents. Alsop is also the founder of such change-making initiatives as the Taki Concordia Fellowship, which promotes and nurtures the careers of emerging female conductors, and the Baltimore Symphony’s OrchKids, a music education program for local youth that fosters social change. The first conductor to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, earlier this year she received the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award, recognizing her championship of diversity in the classical world.

An affiliate of Austria’s national broadcast service Österreichischer Rundfunk (ORF), the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra is the nation’s only radio orchestra and one of its few ensembles to focus substantially on new music. Since its founding in 1969, the orchestra has had seven prior Chief Conductors, including Dennis Russell Davies and Bertrand de Billy. Alsop first guest-conducted the Vienna RSO in 2014, and went on to develop a close rapport with the orchestra. As a result, when asked to help select their next Chief Conductor, its members unanimously proposed her for the post. Alsop’s appointment was announced in January last year; having served since then as Chief Conductor Designate, she now looks forward to helming the Vienna RSO for an initial three years.

In their second week together, Alsop and the orchestra open the Vienna Modern Festival with an all-contemporary program comprising the world premiere of a new commission from Peter Ablinger, the Austrian premieres of Agata Zubel’s Fireworks and Clara Iannotta’s Moult, Jón Leifs’s Hekla, and Berio’s Sinfonia, for which they will be joined by the Swingle Singers (Oct 31). The following week, the conductor leads Schumann’s Second Symphony, as re-orchestrated by Mahler, and Drei Sätze für Orchester by Friedrich Cerha, widely considered Austria’s most important living composer, at the orchestra’s 50th Anniversary Birthday Concert (Nov 6). Both performances will be broadcast live on ORF’s Ö1 station.

Other highlights of Alsop’s opening weeks include three days of masterclasses and workshops for women conductors, which she holds in collaboration with Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts (Nov 1-3). Composers Angélica Castelló, Clara Iannotta, Mirela Ivičević and Agata Zubel will give career advice to students at the university (Oct 28 & 29), and Alsop will take part in a panel discussion on “Gender Equality in Music, Ten Years from Now,” for which she will be joined by Christoph Becher, Vienna RSO Orchestra Director; Patricio Canete-Schreger, Head of Music, City Council for Cultural Affairs and Science; Ulrike Sych, Dean of Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts; composer Agata Zubel; and host Renata Schmidtkunz, a presenter on ORF’s Ö1 station. The panel will consider how best to facilitate the careers of female conductors and composers and how to help the industry pursue its goal of true gender parity (Oct 30).

Notably, in Alsop’s first season, five out of six concerts in the orchestra’s Vienna Konzerthaus subscription series will be conducted by women. She herself looks forward to leading programs featuring symphonies by German Romantics Mendelssohn and Schumann and music by her compatriots John Adams and Bernstein, a former mentor to whom she has often been compared, as well as by Austrian composers Mahler, Zemlinsky, Zeisl and HK Gruber. She and the Vienna RSO conclude their inaugural season together with a spring tour of Austria’s Bundesländer, to celebrate the orchestra’s milestone golden jubilee.


Marin Alsop: 2019-20 engagements with Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Except where noted, all events take place in Vienna, Austria.

Oct 24
Vienna Konzerthaus
Ö1 broadcast: Nov 8
LERA AUERBACH: Eva’s Complaint: O Flowers That Will Never Blossom
   (2019; world premiere of ORF RSO co-commission)
PAUL HINDEMITH: Symphony from Mathis der Maler (1933-34)
PAUL HINDEMITH: Sancta Susanna (1921)

Oct 31
Vienna Konzerthaus
Ö1 broadcast: live
AGATA ZUBEL: Fireworks (2018; Austrian premiere)
PETER ABLINGER: Four White Noise Pieces for Orchestra
   (2019; world premiere of ORF RSO co-commission)
CLARA IANNOTTA: Moult (2019; Austrian premiere)
LUCIANO BERIO: Sinfonia for 8 voices and orchestra (1968-69)
JÓN LEIFS: Hekla, Op. 52 (1961)

Nov 6
ORF RadioKulturhaus
Vienna RSO: 50th Anniversary Birthday Concert
Ö1 broadcast: live
FRIEDRICH CERHA: Drei Sätze für Orchester (2012)
ROBERT SCHUMANN (re-orch. GUSTAV MAHLER): Symphony No. 2, Op. 61 (1845-1846)

Feb 23
Musikverein Vienna
Ö1 broadcast: Feb 28
ROBERT SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 2 in C, Op. 61 (1847)
HANS WERNER HENZE: Nachtstücke und Arien (1957)
ROBERT SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 1 in B-flat, Op. 38, “Spring Symphony” (1841) 

May 8
Musikverein Vienna
Ö1 broadcast: live
ALEXANDER ZEMLINSKY: Psalm 13 for Choir and Orchestra, Op. 24 (1935)
ERICH ZEISL: Requiem Ebraico, Psalm 92 (1944-45)
GUSTAV MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 in D, “Titan” (1888)

May 14
ORF RadioKulturhaus
LEONARD BERNSTEIN: Three Dance Episodes from On the Town (1944-45)
FELIX MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, “Italian” (1833)

May 15
Musikverein Vienna
Ö1 broadcast: May 22
LEONARD BERNSTEIN: Three Dance Episodes from On the Town (1944-45)
HK GRUBER: Frankenstein !!/ A pandemonium for chansonnier and orchestra (1976-77)
JOHN ADAMS: “Lola Montez Does the Spider Dance” from Girls of the Golden West (2016)
FELIX MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, “Italian” (1833)

May 17
Vienna Konzerthaus
FELIX MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, “Italian” (1833)

May 18–28: 50th Anniversary tour of Austria’s Bundesländer
LEONARD BERNSTEIN: Three Dance Episodes from On the Town (1944-45)
HK GRUBER: Frankenstein !!, a pandemonium for chansonnier and orchestra (1976-77)
JOHN ADAMS: “Lola Montez Does the Spider Dance” from Girls of the Golden West (2016)
FELIX MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, “Italian” (1833)
May 18: Innsbruck, Austria
May 19: Villach, Austria
May 25: Graz, Austria
May 27: Wels, Austria
May 28: Bregenz, Austria

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© 21C Media Group, October 2019

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